Today, Mike Florio of PFT reported the latest cap space figures for NFL teams. Of little surprise to most of us, the Bengals were near the top in available funds, coming in third with a whopping 29 million dollars free to spend. This, of course, has elicited tyical feedback from the corners of Bengaldom, as fans and observers alike see it as more evidence that Mike Brown is the modern-day Henry Potter.
Our friends over at CincyJungle temper that criticism with a couple of solid points.
Firstly, the team must keep 11 million dollars in reserve for Carson Palmer. Despite his by-proxy claim that he will never play in Cincinnati again, the team can’t bank on it. If number nine were to show up at PBS and “unretire,” Brown and company would be forced to pay him his full salary or begrudgingly grant him a release. Brown, for all his well-documented cheapness, would never simply cut Carson Palmer. He can’t do it because Palmer has too much value in the league to simply relinquish, and Brown’s staunch old school principles wouldn’t allow it anyway.
Secondly, the Bengals are reportedly working hard to extend the contracts of young leaders CB Leon Hall and OT Andrew Whitworth. If the team wants to truly rebuild, locking up these young starters now is a good bet.
I very much agree with the above points, but these may not be the only good reasons pennies are being carefully squirreled away. I would point out that there are other needs the Bengals may be eyeing as well.
Both WR’s Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell will be free agents at the end of this season. Simpson has the freakish athleticism to be a top-flight wide-out, and Caldwell is a solid and consistent performer who can play all 3 receiver spots. What if Simpson continues the break-out performances from the end of 2010 this year? He’d be a young and talented skill player heading into his prime. Additionally, DT Pat Sims is heading into the last year of his rookie deal, as does Safety Reggie Nelson. Both could have huge impacts on the defense this year. The consistently underestimated Anthony Collins also heads to free agency after this year. Getting some of these players to sign extensions now would be the economical move. Waiting for after a breakout season will cost the team millions.
Looking at more veteran players, DB Adam Jones will also be a free agent next year, along with kicker Mike Nugent. LB Manny Lawson signed just a one-year deal with the Bengals, and newly acquired CB Kelly Jennings is also playing on a one-year deal.
The bottom line is that if they don’t talk to at least some of these guys now, they will have a lot of cap space and empty roster spots in 2012. Unless they plan to revamp a large part of the roster again in 2012, they’ll need to re-sign more than Hall and Whitworth.
Do not discount the possibility that the Bengals will further modify the roster after other teams pare down theirs over the next week. If history is a guide, the Bengals will claim a high priced, young player off waivers or make a spirited run at a talented veteran cut at a position of need.
The bottom line is that there are many good explanations for the available cap space the Bengals have.
Then again, with record low attendance at training camp, a blacked out preseason game already in the books, and the ongoing threat of political and legal ramifications for his sweet stadium lease, Miser Brown might just be hoarding cash for a rough season ahead.